Top-viewed stories offer distinction

By Todd Franko

So what news most impacted you in 2009?

Who was the biggest newsmaker for the year?

Forget 2009; how would you measure those questions for the decade?

The staff at The Vindicator pondered the many, many options and came up with a lineup that we presented to you this week.

It made for some interesting reading — and debate.

UGeneral Motors committed to building the Chevrolet Cruze, a fuel-efficient sedan, at its Lordstown Complex.

UForum Health, a major Valley employer with about 4,000 workers, declared bankruptcy in March. Forum’s board of directors and creditors plan to decide by Jan. 11 whether it can reorganize or sell its assets.

UConvicted 18 years ago in the brutal murder of Tami Engstrom, Kenneth Biros, 51, of Trumbull County was executed Dec. 8 by the state of Ohio after many delays.

UMaureen A. Cronin, a former Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge, pleaded guilty Dec. 15 to two felony counts of fraud.

UTwo Cardinal Mooney High School students were found dead Dec. 6 in Forest Lawn Memorial in Boardman.

UThe Youngstown State University Board of Trustees sent President David C. Sweet a letter April 1, 2009, that Sweet’s job will end June 30, 2010.

UThe Youngstown school district is the only public school district in Ohio in “academic emergency,” the lowest rating the state gives.

Our top 2009 news event as selected by the staff was the release of Jim Traficant from prison.

Several of you looked at this selection as a Traficant endorsement of sorts.

Don’t believe that. But as much as we may personally want to look beyond him, we can’t ignore the news that his release made. If we’re to ignore him, then we pretty much render as moot the entire 2009 reflection effort.

That debate aside, arriving at the most-significant stories of the year is a result of measured assessment and discussion among staffers.

But on the Internet, measuring “the most-significant” stories does not happen so purposefully. What stories draw the most online clicks aren’t always the most significant in the big picture.

There were just three stories — Traficant’s release, Youngstown schools and the Mooney deaths — where staff measurement was consistent with the news that was most read by online readers.

Just three. No Chevy Cruze, no YSU president, no Biros.

So what news is most important to readers? Reality is, the reporting we do that is most important to the community, on a day-by-day basis, may not always be what sells on a day-by-day basis.

Salacious and violent stories tend to drive a certain aspect of readership. You won’t find too many heart-warming tales or institutional change driving large amounts of eyeballs in a 24-hour news cycle.

But I believe it’s the balance of all stories that make for a better newspaper overall and, hopefully, keep you as a reader week in and week out.

Here’s a look at the most-read stories online in 2009:

UTragic shooting deaths in Poland and Austintown had strong readership.

UMany online readers turned to two stories on sex charges against a Poland minister.

UA $1 million lottery winner, a Kelly Pavlik bar-brawl allegation (later dismissed), a Bo Pelini football story and a Pennsylvania man arrested for bestiality drew plenty of readers for plenty of reasons.

UThe second-most-read story online was the Canfield home evacuated for lack of cleanliness.

UAnd the top-read story on was the notorious teen brawl between Mooney students and a Canfield teenager.

The main story of that incident, along with several incremental stories related to it, drew more readers than any other Vindicator story in 2009.

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